Niles auditor apologizes for clerk’s purported theft in office
By Jordan Cohen
City Auditor Charles Nader has issued a public apology after discovery of a two-year-long theft of more than $71,000 from the treasurer’s office purportedly by a former clerk.
“I apologize to the people of Niles for letting this happen,” Nader said during Wednesday’s council meeting. “We’re trying to take steps to … never let this happen again.”
A Trumbull County grand jury last month indicted Phyllis Wilson, 61, on a charge of theft in office after state auditors discovered that Wilson’s bank-deposit receipts were significantly higher than the money she actually deposited.
“The clerk apparently made up the receipts,” Nader said.
The thefts occurred in 2012 and continued until last summer when Wilson retired from her job. A source close to the investigation told The Vindicator that auditors are probing whether the embezzlement began as early as 2011.
Nader conceded that safeguards should have been in place that could have prevented the theft. In a letter to council, Nader issued a series of recommendations that will reconcile bank statements to accurately reflect every deposit.
“Please understand that we need to start somewhere, and this is but one step in rectifying a system that seems to have gone awry,” Nader told council.
Council President Robert Marino said he discussed Nader’s proposals with the state auditor’s office. “They said [his] measures were appropriate,” Marino told council.
Nader said after the council meeting the system lacked the necessary checks and balances that would have uncovered the theft much sooner. “We [the auditor’s office] never got to see those receipts because we never needed them,” Nader said.
Nader’s proposed safeguards would note all outstanding checks, deposits in transit and the departments responsible for them.
When questioned by a council member, city Treasurer Robert Swauger said safeguards are being enacted, but Swauger made no other comment about the theft or the investigation during the meeting. Council members did not publicly comment about Nader’s apology or his proposed corrective actions.
Marino said he and council fully support the probe. “We are not equivocating,” the council president said. “We take seriously our oath to protect taxpayers and rate payers. We want [investigators] to leave no stone unturned and to get after it.”